— by SCOTT SWAN —
It’s abundantly clear Omar Ali Khan loves “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He loves it almost as much as he loves his super extreme wide angle lens. Luckily for horror fans, this fact is in no way a detriment.
“Hell’s Ground,” which has the rare distinction of being Pakistan’s first splatter/gore flick, is one big fat wet kiss on the lips of a low budget horror blood bath. As a director, Khan is for the most part imitative, but his pure unfettered enthusiasm for the genre and the craft of filmmaking itself shines through so profoundly that with just this one film (his first and only so far, actually) he’s made me an instant fan of his work.
The story is familiar. A small group of young people pile into a van, smoke some weed, and head out into sticks. Before the night is out, they’re turned into hamburger. What makes this film different, for one thing, is Khan’s infusion of Pakistani culture. The Leatherface of this film is a man in a Burqa who bludgeons his victims to death with a medieval spiked ball and chain. Another difference is there are George Romero-esque zombies in the film. The zombies feel a little out of place, but it paves the way for a nice shock in the final moments of the film.
Bottom line, though: “Hell’s Ground” is very good and certainly ground-breaking for where it comes from. But the real surprise and star of this film is the director. Omar Ali Khan loves movies and it’s clear as a spiked ball to the back of the skull he’s a natural born filmmaker. He needs to be making western movies, like, right now. He’d be terrific. I guarantee he would have made a much more satisfying and authentic “Chainsaw” remake than what Marcus Nispel turned in. In fact, if I had to sum Khan up with only one word it would have to be “authentic.” It’s from the heart. Also the cinematography by Najaf Bilgrami is top notch for what little money they probably had.
The cast is great. They really invest in this crazy scenario. In one of the documentaries on the disc, Khan talks about one of the actors who has a small part as a zombie. He turned to Khan between takes and said with excitement, “There’s never been a movie like this made here.” That’s how this whole movie feels. It has the freshness that the original “Chainsaw” must have had back in the early ’70s. It has a true pioneering spirit about it, even if it’s a loving imitation for the most part.
Speaking of documentaries on the DVD, they’re all absolutely worth watching. In one of them, we learn that Khan owns a thriving ice cream parlor and decided to use the profits to make his horror film. He comes across as a fascinating guy and I hope this is just the beginning of a very long and successful career.
Follow Scott Swan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scottobiswan.